Brutally Honest Advice From 6 Startup Owners Before You Jump On The Bandwagon
Heads up from the experts
The startup life is not for everyone; that much is true.
In a world where time and money are often seen as limited resources, employing applicable and related good advice from fellow entrepreneurs who have started on this path before you goes a long way to help stretch those resources and possibly save some headaches as well.
Here are some nuggets of wisdom from five startup founders that may help to shape your expectations before you take the plunge.
Don’t Forsake Your Vision for Money
Or you might risk losing the long-term sustainability of your company. Founder of Naiise Dennis Tay (Singapore) suggests reorienting your focus. “Don’t chase the money, chase the vision,” he advises. It may be easy to start looking at sales figures and KPIs and get anxious, but he suggests that things have to be done in the right way. “Don’t stray off that path, don’t cheapen design, don’t start discounting things just because you need to make sales and hit a target.”
Fledgling startups may encounter difficulties striking the balance between turning a profit and staying true to their original objectives. Business owners face varying levels of pressure from many quarters: an evolving marketplace with changing customer needs, investors who have a contrasting vision for the company, detractors who seem convinced that the current model lacks sustainability; a never-ending chain of comments and critique. And while you may be grateful to people who could mentor your company and help bring your vision to life, the materialising of said vision could differ greatly from your original intentions. Arriving at a fork in the road like this calls for some self-reflection and realignment of objectives, when necessary.
Achmad Zaky from Bukalapak (Indonesia) issues an illuminating truth that many startups tend to forget: “Focus on the product; make your product needed by providing real benefit to people. An investor is only a support for growth.”
The Money is in the Details
The phrase “value proposition” rolls off the tongue so easily but it’s deceptively hard to pin down. Chances are, someone has thought of a similar idea before you and has come up with a currently successful way to serve the market.
Still, don’t let that quash your dreams! A great product or service is made up of the many little parts that make it work, and the finer details can often serve as the tipping point that swings a customer’s loyalty your way. Chan Kee Siak of Exabytes Network (Malaysia) professes to be unsurprised by the multitude of companies offering web-hosting services.
“What’s different is [the] marketing and packaging of the product, as well as the way clients are treated. We don’t have salespeople who do door-to-door sales; we don’t meet our customers at their office. All our sales are done over the Internet. And this has helped us reduce cost and enable us to pass the saving back to our customers.”
Now, how’s that for killing two birds with one stone?
Longevity is the Key to Success
If you want to create something impactful and revolutionary, make sure it sticks around long enough to do so. Develop a plan for every step of the way. Feeling your way around creates tension that can threaten to destabilise your company. Just take it from Prachaya Phaisanwiphatpong from Y-Combinator (Thailand). He notes the short-lived momentum that early startups in Thailand face, whereby “they tend to die because of [being] unable to expand their customer base.” Seems like diversification is the way to go, and he wryly comments that the “customer base does not grow itself”.
“While having a burn rate, they could run out of cash first,” cautions Phaisanwiphatpong, “…The product needs to have sufficient reason for someone to adopt it for long term. Newly introduced product could fail that easily. So, every startup here tends to test their products regularly and adapt rapidly whenever the products do not reach such goal[s].”
The mantra of innovation, while widely extolled, is not actually as common as we think it is. It’s geared specifically towards product/service offerings, but what about actually rethinking business processes and changing the very things people tend to take for granted? Eric Ries, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup, spares no pleasantries in noting that, “There’s been a total disruption to every business in the world that’s being tested to see if it’s fundamentally sound. If it’s flawed, it’s being replaced by a digital equivalent. Who would have thought that Airbnb or on-demand cars would be more than a picture of science fiction? Uber seems to be ordinary now.”
These brief insights may help realign your objectives and sharpen your approach as you develop a solid business plan. The road ahead may be long and winding for today’s entrepreneurs, but it may turn out to be rewarding and paved with gold.
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